ARC 2012: Digital Signage Winner - ViewSonic

ViewSonic is this year's Annual Report Card winner in the Digital Signage category, topping out rival NEC for the third year in a row--and both left Samsung in the dust. Similar to last year, ViewSonic came out ahead in the areas of support with a score of 74.7 and a 78.9 in partnership. NEC's 83.1 in product innovation, narrowly edged out ViewSonic's 82.6.

"ViewSonic has spent 25 years as a channel company and has supported the channel from new product line innovation, and has dedicated support with new ways to grow and sell products," said Sarah Kearns, ViewSonic marketing manager, adding that being "born in the channel, when our partners win, we win. We constantly strive to support partners with award-winning customer service."

The vendor's long-term relationship with the channel has resulted in product loyalty. The company is gearing up for the debut of the new VSD220 computing system, which runs Android. Kearns said the device "is not a PC replacement but a supplement of a PC. It's an ideal all-in-one, family-friendly device that's perfect for sending quick emails, checking Twitter and finding recipes."

Infinity Group Buys Altec Lansing Name, Plans To Rebuild Brand

Infinity Lifestyle Brands, which specializes in acquiring and turning around struggling or bankrupt consumer brands, purchased worldwide rights to the Altec Lansing brand for $17.5 million at auction.

The company purchased the Polaroid and Linens ‘n Things brands in 2010, purchased the Sharper Image brand in 2009, and later sold it off, and is part of a joint venture that owns licensing rights to the Miss America brand.

Altec Lansing, founded in 1941, was most recently owned by an affiliate of Prophet Equity, which purchased the company in 2009 from Plantronics and, in 2011, moved the company to San Diego from Milford, Pa.

As it has with previous brands that it purchased, Infinity Lifestyle Brands will develop a business plan and strategy for Altec Lansing, then license the brands to various companies that will adhere to Infinity’s marketing and positioning guidelines. These include the types of retailers to be targeted, said Ike Franco, principal of Infinity Group. Infinity Lifestyle Brands is one division of Infinity Group. Another division manages real estate in 13 states

FCC Rules on Encryption of Basic Tier Cable

Cable providers have wanted to encrypt basic cable for some time now, allegedly so that service can be enabled and disabled from head end instead of having to roll a truck and to reduce theft, which was estimated to be $5 billion in 2004. Funny how they always fail to mention it will fatten their nest eggs somewhat.  

Part of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 prohibits cable operators (but not satellite operators) from scrambling or encrypting signals carried on the basic tier of service, but the FCC has now ruled that this encryption is permitted, as long as certain consumer protection measures are put in place, but there are a several caveats.

Basically the FCC ruling says that the six largest (caveat one) cable providers (who service 86% of subscribers) are “to comply with additional requirements that are intended to ensure compatibility with certain third-party-provided equipment used to access the basic tier”. These “additional requirements” boil down to offering equipment (or technology to third parties) that is compatible with IP-enabled clear-QAM devices provided by third parties.

In order to limit costs, the cable companies are required (for a limited time—caveat two, and to existing subscribers—caveat three) to:

(i) offer to existing subscribers who subscribe only to the basic service tier and do not use a set-top box or CableCARD, the subscriber’s choice of a set-top box or CableCARD on up to two television sets without charge for two years from the date of encryption;

 (ii) offer existing subscribers who subscribe to a level of service above “basic only” but use an additional television set to access only the basic service tier without the use of a set-top box or CableCARD at the time of encryption, the subscriber’s choice of a set-top box or CableCARD on one television set without charge for one year from the date of encryption; and

(iii) offer existing subscribers who receive Medicaid,82 subscribe only to the basic service tier, and do not use a settop box or CableCARD, the subscriber’s choice of a set-top box or CableCARD on up to two television sets without charge for five years from the date of encryption.

In addition the six largest cable providers have committed to adopt, prior to encrypting, a solution that would provide basic service tier access to third-party provided IP-enabled clear QAM devices (such as Boxee, Hauppage, etc.)

These six cable operators will make basic cable available either via connection from operator-supplied equipment or by providing access to the operator’s security technology. This will be accomplished either by:

(i) Option 1 - providing a converter box with “standard home networking capability” that can provide IP-enabled clear QAM devices access to basic service tier channels

(ii) Option 2 - enable IP-enabled clear QAM devices to access basic service tier channels without any additional hardware through the use of commercially available software upgrades

The fact of the matter is that all this does is potentially defer costs as a sunset in proposed on these commitments three years after the Order is adopted unless the Commission extends them. On a positive note, the FCC has committed to reviewing this in future: “We believe that a future review of these rules is warranted because the market for these IP based devices is nascent and it is unclear whether consumer demand for this equipment will flourish. Accordingly, we delegate authority to the Bureau to initiate a review two years after the release of this Order to decide whether these IP-enabled device protections remain necessary to protect consumers or whether it is appropriate to sunset the IP-enabled device protections.”

Manufacturers, such as Boxee, are offered some protection, as they will be provided a license for any technology to access the basic service on a “good faith” basis and cable operators must “publicly disclose the DLNA profile or other protocol that is being used for the home-networking (Option 1) capability on such operator-supplied equipment.”

Any telecom or cable bill is always peppered with additional fees, but the FCC is clear on this when it comes to having to hand out free devices: “Out of an abundance of caution, however, they suggest we affirmatively state that cable operators may not impose service fees (such as “digital access fees” or “outlet fees”) in lieu of rental fees for the free devices. Consistent with Public Knowledge and Media Access Project’s suggestion, we clarify that boxes provided by cable operators that choose to encrypt the basic service tier must be provided without any additional service charges related to the equipment.”

For existing cord cutters who may rejoice, don’t get too excited. If a box is required, you’re not getting it for free. The change clearly states: “We do not agree that free equipment is necessary for new subscribers: given the movement to digital services, many subscribers have become accustomed to leasing set-top devices, and that trend seems likely to continue”.

While Boxee, who have a new DVR coming to market, rejoices, for the most part all the changes do is defer costs and force cable providers to provide free basic service for a few years. After that, unless the review extends the sunset date, you’ll be looking at a monthly fee. My advice: if you live near a transmitter, get a digital antenna, or better still a Dishtenna. I put up a new antenna and cut the cord a few years ago and have never looked back. I also get a much better picture to boot. Of course, the cable companies are also trying to kill OTA altogether under the guise of “freeing up that part of the frequency spectrum”, so who knows how long anything will be free.

Flat Panel Display Price Erosion and Performance Improvements Drive Increased Demand

After struggling in 2011 with a challenging market environment due to sliding demand and price erosion, 2012 marks a year of recovery for the flat panel display (FPD) industry. According to the latest NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Worldwide FPD Shipment and Forecast Report, worldwide FPD revenues will reach $120 billion in 2012, up 8% from $111 billion in 2011, and exceeding 2010 revenues. Among the various FPD technologies, TFT LCD accounts for the majority of revenues at $107.7 billion in 2012, up from $99.4 billion in 2011. However, AMOLED displays once again showed the strongest Y/Y growth, as manufacturing capacity and market players continue to expand. However, with the exception of LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon, a form of microdisplay) all other display technologies, including plasma and passive matrix forms of LCD and OLED, are declining in 2012. In a sharp reversal, AMEPD (active matrix electrophoretic display), which is used in monochrome e-readers, swung from strong growth in 2011 to even stronger decline in 2012, due to competition from TFT LCD-based tablet PCs.

Google Play Music and Movies purchasing reaches Google TV.

It's been one of the more conspicuous omissions in the media hub space: despite Google Play being the cornerstone of Google's content strategy, you couldn't truly use the company's music or movie services through Google TV without depending on content you'd already paid for elsewhere. As of a new upgrade, the ecosystem has come full circle. Viewers with Google TV boxes can at last buy or rent directly from Google Play Movies and Google Play Music, and the content will be indexed in the TV & Movies section alongside third-party video services and traditional TV. The upgrade also helps Google's TV front end play catch-up with its mobile counterpart by adding automatic app updates and subscriptions. While device owners may have to wait a few weeks as the upgrade rolls out, the addition signals a big step forward for a platform that has normally leaned heavily on others for help.

Why Microsoft and Apple Should Combine Hobby Products?

Microsoft confuses me. They have one the best DVR’s on the market with Windows Media Center (WMC), yet they seem disinterested in adding features and are continually sending out signals that its life is almost over.  Apple has pretty much treated the AppleTV as a hobby from day one and according to Tim Cook it’s still a wait and see product. Maybe Apple and Microsoft should get serious, combine their two hobbies (or red-headed step children) and make the best set-top box/DVR on the market.

Many were left wondering about the future of WMC when Microsoft announced that Media Center would not be an integral part of Windows 8. Now, according to Ceton, “it is still unclear whether Media Center will be offered in the next version of Windows Embedded”. (Windows embedded is an OEM version of Windows used to develop customized systems/products such as SlingCatcher, Ford SYNC, etc.)

Consequently, Ceton has announced that “it’s possible the Q will launch in 2013, either as initially envisioned or perhaps re-envisioned, but we can’t guarantee that at this point.  We know there is a ton of interest in the Q and that this news will be disappointing to a lot of you but we think it’s important to be upfront about where things stand.”

Top marks to Ceton for being up-front with their customers and prospective customers; failing grade for Microsoft for muddying the waters further.

Build a foolproof home-media network-without any wires

Until recently, nothing short of ethernet wires had the bandwidth necessary to pipe media from one room to another. And unless you were a networking geek, you’d have had to spend thousands of dollars getting a knowledgeable professional to punch holes in your walls to wire your house with ethernet jacks.

That time has passed. Today's wireless networks can handle video, music, and lightning-fast Web surfing without breaking a sweat—and they require very little skill to set up. Want to battle it out in Halo 3 via the Xbox in your den, or to play a movie from the collection stored on your server in your basement? I’ll cover everything you need to know to "wire" your house without stringing new cable or busting your budget.

Just one caveat before we go on. The speed of your Internet connection will have a significant impact on the quality of the real-time video you get from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. If your genuine download speeds are below 6 mbps, you may be limited to streaming lower-resolution video from the Internet.

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DSF Establishes New Standards for Educators

The Digital Signage Federation has established a set of new National Standards for Digital Signage Education to provide curriculum guidance for universities, colleges and specialty schools throughout North America, wherever areas of study touch on coursework related to the various facets of digital signage.

By establishing National Standards for Digital Signage Education, the DSF aims to broaden the labor pool of qualified candidates for future employment in the digital signage industry. As the digital signage industry grows, it is imperative that employers have qualified entry-level choices of personnel to be able to grow their business affordably. Going forward, the DSF will be working to secure adoption of these Standards by colleges, universities and specialty schools, to provide the guidance necessary to frame their curricula to ensure that graduates have the prerequisites necessary to meet the industry’s hiring needs.
 

Startup Ube Readies Free Android, iOS Home-Control Apps

Startup Ube Management, whose founders include former CEDIA CEO Utz Baldwin, plans November availability of free Android and iOS apps that deliver Wi-Fi and cellular control of more than 200 IP-based home electronics and home-control products.

The compatible products range from smart TVs and set-top boxes to garage-door openers, thermostats, and planned Ube-brand lighting dimmers and smart power outlets. The lighting dimmers and smart outlets are due in March.

The technology eliminates the need to install a central processing unit to control multiple home systems and eliminates expensive programming, which often involves the mixing and matching of different hardware and software standards, the company said. Ube’s system will therefore bring down the cost of home control to mass-market prices, the company continued. “By moving the intelligence into the device, where it belongs, these smart energy devices enable simple, intuitive smartphone control of home lighting and other appliances,” Ube said.

The company is using seed money from founders and angel investors to launch the apps, and it plans to raise additional money to launch the Ube-branded hardware.

ADS Security Merges Home Security and Home Automation with New Home Control Service

ADS Security (ADS), a local security company, has merged their primary service, home security, with home automation to offer a new high-tech home control system service with security at its core. ADS Home Control delivers home security and home automation packaged together and remotely managed from anywhere on a mobile device.

"ADS is proud to offer a home automation service from a company that has always had safety and security as its primary focus," said ADS President and COO, John Cerasuolo. "ADS Home Control merges seamlessly with our core business, home security, to offer an ideal home management experience."

ADS Home Control saves homeowners time, money and energy by allowing them to manage their home when it's convenient for them. Whether at home or away, residents can arm or disarm their security system, lock or unlock doors, and adjust lights, thermostat and small appliances. Home control systems help reduce energy bills by letting homeowners make instant adjustments to the thermostats and lights. Automatic adjustments can also be set by customizing home control schedules.

Five Tips to Help Retailers Achieve Greater Satisfaction From Digital Signage

A recent survey reveals many retailers aren't exactly where they want to be with their IT technology, including digital signage. These five tips can help.

Retailers realize the important role IT technology, including digital signage, will play in their continued success, but many say they aren't using technology to its full potential.

Those are two important findings of a newly released survey from CompTIA, a non-profit association for the IT industry. The report "Retail Sector Technology Adoption Trends Study," finds that 72 percent of retailers surveyed see technology as important to their business -a level that is expected to grow to 83 percent by 2014. However, only 7 percent say they are exactly where they want to be with the use of technology. Twenty-nine percent say they are close to their ideal application of technology.

The study also reveals that digital signage is seen by retailers as an important part of their IT mix. The CompTIA study finds a third of retailers said they currently use digital signage, and 20 percent intend to begin doing so soon. Seventy-one percent of respondents said the most popular application of digital signage was for announcements of sales and other promotional offers.

Given the survey findings regarding satisfaction with how well technology is being used and the importance of digital signage to retailers, the need for some advice on how to make the most out of digital signage technology seems apparent. These five tips should help put retailers on the right track.

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Mobiplug Raises $2.7 Million Series A Financing Round Led By Foundry Group

 Mobiplug Networks Inc., a recent TechStars Boulder 2012 graduate, has secured $2.7 million in Series A funding led by Foundry Group. Additional strategic investors include Bullet Time Ventures, SK Ventures, Social Leverage, Clarion Direct Investment, and others. The company also named seasoned entrepreneur, Tim Enwall, as new Chief Executive Officer. As part of the round, Foundry Group's Ryan McIntyre will be joining Mobiplug's Board of Directors.

Fresh out of TechStars Boulder 2012 summer class, Mobiplug offers an affordable all-in-one home monitoring and control solution. Mobiplug makes the smart home a reality for mass market consumers with easy-to-use iPhone and iPad apps, enabling hundreds of off-the-shelf smart household items from retailers such as Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Best Buy. The Mobiplug applications, associated web services and enabling equipment allow homeowners to achieve comfort, convenience, peace of mind and conservation right from their smartphones, home or away, with a single application experience. These services will also be available to developers who want to create their own immersive home monitoring and control experience.

JD Power Study: Still Little 3D TV Interest

The percentage of TV buyers who purchase a high definition television for its 3D capabilities remains very low- just 11 percent. That's according to J.D. Power and Associates' new 2012 High Definition Television (HDTV) Report.

Price (75 percent) remains the top reason customers choose specific TVs, followed by brand reputation (60 percent); positive reviews (37 percent); past experience with the brand (36 percent).

"While still finding its niche, 3D HDTV capability is not a leading force in purchasing a television," said Sara Wong Hilton, a director at J.D. Power and Associates, said as part of the announcement.

"One reason is that 3D HDTVs are typically more expensive than non-3D-capable HDTVs. Additionally, in order to view 3D media, special media players, and 3D glasses in some cases, are required. The extra cost could play a role in dissuading customers from adopting the technology at this point."

 

Wawa Deploys Digital Signage Across 600 Stores

Wawa Inc. has incorporated digital signage into more than 600 convenience stores. In the fall of 2011, following a successful 25-store pilot, Wawa selected ADFLOW Networks Inc. to power its digital marketing network as part of a redesigned foodservice area that features a fresh and appetizing new look.

"Our new digital signage showcases our offer in a much more upscale, appealing way and moves us closer to our vision of fast casual to go," said Howard Stoeckel, CEO of Wawa.

Wawa is using the digital signage displays to drive awareness for new products and to communicate relevant food and beverage options based on the time of day. Messaging is displayed on large-format screens mounted in the foodservice and coffee areas.

"The feedback from customers and store associates was extremely positive after our initial rollout," said Steve Gamble, manager of marketing services for Wawa. "With ADFLOW, we found a digital signage partner who was flexible, creative and great to work with."

 

TV's next generation may come from China

At last month's IFA 2012 electronics show in Berlin, one of the biggest head-turning products was from China-based TCL Multimedia. The company introduced the Ice Screen, a 26-inch Android-based smart display that reportedly offers the functionality of a tablet while aiming to capture the changing TV viewing habits of the youth market. It will debut in China as part of a partnership with Chinese Internet provider Tencent as the world's first large screen mobile intelligent cloud product.

Just don't call it a television.

"It is a 26-inch large display," says Hao Yi, general manager of TCL Multimedia Emerging Market Business Center. "It is not just for TV, as the younger generation doesn't watch TV like the older generation."

While the vast majority of its business still comes from China, TCL has also looked to expand into the international TV market. The company just released its monthly sales volume for August of LCD TVs, reporting a 38.7% total year-on-year increase, with a marked increase of LED backlight LCD sets specifically. In its overseas market TCL reported an increase of 36.5% year-on-year, with notable expansion in emerging markets.

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

This is Control4 Home Automation with Amazon Alexa.

This is Control4 Home Automation with Amazon Alexa.

INTRODUCING THE SIMPLEST WAY TO CONTROL YOUR ENTIRE HOUSE YOUR VOICE. Imagine this... We've all been there-walking through the door into a dark house, arms full. Wouldn't it be nice to tell your house to offer a helping hand? Now you can. A simple voice command-such as "Alexa, turn on Welcome"-lights up the hallway and kitchen, fires up your favorite Pandora station, while the door locks itself behind you. This is Control4 Home Automation with Amazon Alexa.